Rose-Colored Glasses

Noah Kalina

The modernist chic of Swedish clothing brand COS (H&M’s up-market, buttoned-up big sister) found its match earlier this year when it started collaborating with Snarkitecture, the Brooklyn-based design studio founded by artist Daniel Arsham and architect Alex Mustonen. Their shared appreciation for the typically Scandinavian clichés of monochrome and minimalism (despite Snarkitecture’s being two American guys) came together during April’s Salone del Mobile, when Snarkitecture built COS’s Milan pop-up shop from a simple field of hanging white synthetic textile strips, cut at various lengths to create distinct retail spaces.

This fall, the Swedish label commissioned them again to do a pop-up space for November, this time inside Austere, a Scandinavian design concept shop that occupies a 5,000-square-foot, double-height former parking garage in Downtown Los Angeles. Rather than pure white, it was the pale reds and dusty pinks of COS’s Autumn/Winter collection that informed the space’s overall design, which as a whole is warmer, softer, and ironically less austere than their previous collaboration.


“For us, it was an opportunity to play with monochrome in a new way,” said Mustonen, contrasting the collection’s copper tones with Snarkitecture’s signature use of black and white. He and Arsham sectioned Austere’s massive concrete shell into two symmetrical spaces by erecting a 20-foot-tall wall, cut with two open doorways and covered with mirrored panels on both sides. On one side, a handful of the collection’s white and grey garments are on sparse display in a completely white room. On the other side is its alternate, symmetrical reality where everything, including the mirrored glass, has been tinted a pale pink.

In addition to the collection’s color scheme, the spatial design also nods to its distinctive silhouettes—tidy geometric outlines interrupted by unexpected cuts, like triangular voids snipped from lapels, abrupt disconnections in the sleeves, and entire panels missing from the backs of jackets—with a series of upright, powder-coated steel panels with cartoonish outlines of pants and shirts cut out of them. The designers arranged them in offset processions in each room, which only emphasizes the fun house effect. For shoppers, there are unexpected voids and reflections alternating at every turn, making for an upbeat shopping experience—not austere at all.

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